Thursday, June 26, 2008

Taft Stepping Down - In Related News, Water Is Wet.

Kevin Taft announced today that he'll be stepping down as leader of the Alberta Liberals as soon as the party selects a new leader, before January of 2009.

That, of course, presumes that the party will even exist in its current incarnation in January of 2009.

As FOES (Friend Of Enlightened Savage) Naheed Nenshi pointed out in a column for the Calgary Herald earlier this week, the political machinations within the Alberta Liberals should be of keen interest to all Albertans, regardless of their political stripe. We simply have no way of knowing what is going to come out of this rebuilding time, and this leadership race. Will the party shift left to absorb the NDP and Green parties, and hope that eventually Albertans shift to the left as well? Do they shift right, co-opt most of the Tory platform but run on a pledge of cleaner, more accountable government? Do they fade off into the sunset altogether?

Whether or not you've ever voted Liberal in your life, what happens next MATTERS - because it affects the manner in which you'll be governed - and even possibly, by whom. Keep an eye on the Alberta (for now) Liberals - this is going to get interesting.

The Alberta Liberals have not as yet announced a timetable for replacing Taft. Taft has indicated he wishes to serve out his full term as MLA for Edmonton Riverview - something that outgoing Liberal leaders in this province have traditionally done, for which he should be commended.

Pilgrim in an Unholy Land

I am a pilgrim in an unholy land.

Outnumbered many times over by mindless zombies who feel that their geography and habits are reason enough to cast their support behind the jokers who demand their devotion, I find myself often wondering how they can actually choose to support such losers.

Am I the only one who sees how often they lose? Am I the only one who notices their natural inferiority? Why won't these automatons embrace the inevitability of my position, or accept the futility of their own? Historically, the "rivalry" between these 2 groups isn't even close. My side holds the advantage of history, and of precedent. We have the undisputed edge - even a suggestion of a divine right to dominate.

So why this refusal to accept reality on the part of the people around me? Why can't they see?

Like any good supporter, I hope that when the day is won, it will be in our favour. However, looking at the recent performance of the man in charge of our side, there's little hope of victory. He's not a leader, and barring a set of monumental mishaps by the opponents, we won't be seizing the bragging rights any time soon. Blasphemous as it might be, there are a great deal of us who hope he continues to stumble and fail - badly - so that we can get rid of this albatross around the neck of our organization and actually build towards the inevitable victory that history and providence have decreed.

In the meantime, though, I'll spend my time being ridiculed and teased for my unwavering support. Such is the life of a minority thinker in this town - even despite the overwhelming evidence that I am, in fact, in the right.

Oh, dear God... am I a Federal Liberal?


Nope. Thank goodness.

Go Eskimos.

"We're Marching Fight, Fight, Fight On Eskimos..."

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Shift Hits The Fan...

Nation, the Liberal Party of Canada yesterday unveiled their "Green Shift" plan, to combat emissions and do our small part to save the planet.

Details are available here, and coverage is, well, everywhere.

The Greens have also released their own "Green Tax Shift", details here.

As a self-described "Christmas Tree Tory" (a Red Tory whose primary issue is Green), I have been simply DYING to see a comprehensive, workable plan to combat emissions. As I've stated on numerous occasions, sustainability isn't just the vogue thing to stand for, and it isn't just a nice bonus as part of your policy - it's an absolutely critical issue. Arguably the most critical issue of our time.

Whether or not we're causing it, the climate is undeniably changing. Whether we're benefiting (as an oil-producing constituency, in Alberta) or not, oil and gas prices continue to soar as demand rises and supply falls inexorably to the eventual well bottom.

Any, and I mean ANY, politician who makes policy without a keeping a weather eye to sustainability in this day and age is drawing dead, in poker terms.

Dion, knowing this, has made it clear that the environment is his number 1 priority. It's the hill he wants to fight an election battle on. He knows that most Canadians don't believe that Stephen Harper and the Tories "care" about the environment (ironic, since when they're not talking environment, his party mouth-pieces dismiss the Tories as farmers and rural bumpkins). So, he's formed an alliance (or, at least, a non-aggression pact) with Elizabeth May's Green Party (which should be the party's full name, by all accounts), and set out to show us he's the man to fix global warming (which, courtesy of re-branding, we will henceforth refer to as "global climate change", as some places are actually getting COLDER).

Dion's Green Shift, as announced yesterday, is the pointed end of the stick. If the electoral battle is going to be over the environment, this is Dion's heavy artillery. It forms the centrepiece of his party's environmental policy, and the branding engine is running overtime to make sure that every time people hear the words "Green Shift" they think "revenue neutral".

As I said, I've been waiting for a workable solution, to reduce our national and provincial dependence on carbon fuels and the revenue they generate.

I'm still waiting.

Politically, this plan may work well for Dion. It rewards Quebec and their hydro-powered industries, which Dion knows he'll need to off-set the losses he'll suffer in Ontario as auto plants shut down. It hurts Alberta - but to hell with those pricks, they won't elect any Liberals anyway. Hurting Alberta always plays well in the Maritimes, who think we're too cocky for our own good. And the jury's still out on BC, to see whether they react with their hearts (BC being one of the "greenest" electorates in the country) or with their heads (Campbell's provincial carbon tax has a nearly 60% disapproval rating).

The problem with the plan, though, is obvious: It's trying to make us WANT to change, by punishing us fiscally for making the same choices we've been making for years. This method works some of the time - initially, many of us buckled up for fear of a ticket if we didn't, not because we thought we'd hit a moose going 120.

However, Dion's "6 pounds of Shift in a 5-pound bag" makes as much sense as trying to get people to be skinnier by taxing potatoes. "If fries cost more, people will choose a salad". Maybe. But you're killing the farmers of Idaho, and several of my Irish friends will likely have to choose between starvation and bankruptcy. The repercussions of the tax, then, go far beyond Happy Meals.

The Tories have tried to paint this plan as a "tax on everything", and while I generally hate to agree with smarmy attack ads - it's hard to argue with the fact that the price of everything, including gasoline, goes up when the cost of delivery and production goes up.

Dion is trumpeting his plan as a "simple" solution to the larger issue of reducing carbon emissions. The problem for Dion is that complicated issues require complicated solutions, and the shift to a sustainable economy, which is critically important, can't be achieved through easily digestible sound-bytes. The "One Tonne Challenge", this ain't.

I think we can do better than this. I KNOW we can do better than this. Let's stop talking about cars that get mileage "twice as good as in 1970", and let's start talking about cars that will run 500 kilometres on 3 cups of water. Let's stop talking about "clean coal", and start talking about cold fusion.

We need to decide, as a nation, to research alternative fuels. It needs to be our own personal "space race". We have the brainpower, we have the research capacity, and we need national leadership to galvanize us in that direction. By leading the world to a future where carbon fuels are as relevant as 8-Track tapes, Canada can do much, much more than just reducing the carbon footprint of 30 million people... we can reduce the carbon footprint of 7 billion.

Will it be easy? No.

Will it be worth it? Without a doubt.

If Stephane Dion and the Liberals want to help save the world, they should announce major investment, MAJOR investment, in research for alternative fuels and energy. They should make it policy for Canada to lead the planet not just in reducing our own dependence on carbon fuels, but rather in leading the entire world away from global dependence on the fuels altogether.

Maybe wind is the future. Maybe it's solar. Maybe it's something else altogether. Maybe a research lab at the University of Lethbridge masters cold fusion.

As a nation of well-educated, well-fed consumers of vast quantities of energy, though, it behooves us to not just get our own house in order, but to try to help our whole, global neighbourhood.

In the 1960's, everyone knew that the biggest priority in the U.S. that WASN'T "beat the communists" was "put a man on the moon". They didn't know exactly how to go about doing it, but they had set their target: get a man on that big, bright thing in the night sky. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong made his "one giant leap for mankind". We in Canada are in a position to make the next giant leap for mankind - and our leaders, from whichever party is in power, should point us in that direction. The whole world should know that "Canada is trying to free us from the shackles of carbon-burning energy".

And then we should DO it.

This is beyond politics and partisanship, and beyond political ideology. This is about survival.

It took us, as a society, less than 66 years to go from the Wright Brothers' flight at Kittyhawk, the first powered flight in human history, to landing a man on the surface of the moon. Because we made it a priority... it was a call to history and discovery.

The modern internal combustion engine was patented in 1854. The coal-fired steam engine hit the scene in 1712. We've been burning wood and oil to heat ourselves for millenniae.

Let's make this a priority, rather than a political football.

History is calling.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Discuss: Determining Political Pay

Nation, unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you've noticed the uproar that accompanied the recent Order-In-Council that raised the salary of the Premier and his cabinet, as well as the leaders of the opposition parties and the Speaker.

Never mind that the pay is likely still too low for the work involved. Never mind that it's still low, by comparison to similar positions. The optics - politicians giving themselves raises, behind closed doors - are simply BRUTAL.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has suggested selecting a group of random Albertans to determine pay - just about the worst idea ever, in practice (if you chose 20 random Albertans, at least 12 of them likely didn't bother to vote - why should they have a say on how much the politicians get paid?).

My question to you: What method should we use to determine pay raises for our political leaders? Indexed against the average of several private sectors? Linked to inflation? Plebiscite on the provincial ballot? Something else entirely?


Saturday, June 14, 2008

If You Want Something Done Right...

... suggest it yourself.

The Calgary Sun reports that the CPS is mulling over the idea of taking control of the security requirements on Calgary's transit system.

Good idea... where have I heard it before?

It's a much smaller scale than my own suggestion, but it IS a start. Leave it to the CPS to need a reported $9 Million for 70 officers, when you can pay $16.64 Million for 320 officers.

I know... training, equipment, computers, et cetera.

Still, though: Good idea. I had it first.

Now, let's get the feds to help out with the cost. It's a drop in the bucket of the Federal Government, whereas it's a reason for municipal government, should it pick up the tab, to hike taxes ANOTHER 10-12%. Besides, isn't the security of public transit in major urban centres a HUGE priority for the Minister of Public Safety?

I'd think that Stock Day would rather have trained Calgary Police Servce officers patrolling our transit system for threats domestic and foreign, than Calgary Transit "rent-a-cops". So, Stock: That'll be $9 Million to start, please. Make it out to "The Enlightened Savage" - I'll make sure it goes to the right place.

- E.S.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Discuss: Re-Engaging The Voters (Part 2)

All right, here's the second half of the "Re-engaging the Voters" thread, perhaps more appropriately called "getting the voters to re-engage".

In complete contrast to yesterday's post, for today's discussion we're going to work under the assumption that political parties and the system itself are doing everything they can to engage the voters, and they're just not going for it. The problem, to whit, lies with the voters themselves (not my position, for the record).

What can we do, as politically-minded people and members of parties, to make the voters WANT to engage with the process? What can we offer them to make it worth their while, in their opinions, to stay engaged? Mandatory voting? Tax credits with a "voter's receipt"? I'm opposed to both ideas, but I'm sure there are plenty more - other countries have dealt with these issues - what did THEY do?

Discuss... now. :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Discuss: Re-Engaging The Voters (Part 1)

Sorry for the lack of action lately, Nation. Been a busy week, including a wedding in Edmonton (my black-sheep Liberal of a cousin, now in the U.S. working for some guy named Barack), some pneumonia-ish symptoms, and way too much work, both paid and pro bono - I'm looking forward to some nice, quiet blogging. :)

Today's discussion point is a 2-parter (second part tomorrow) - How to re-engage the voters.

Let's assume, for the sake of this argument, that the only problem with the system, the largest and most obvious symptom of which is low voter turn-out, is the direct fault of the political parties and system itself. People WANT to be engaged, but the parties and the system are failing them... so, what do we do?

Begin comments... now.